New bill to allow prisons to deploy IMSI catchers outside of prisons
New bill to allow prisons to deploy IMSI catchers outside of prisons

A new bill introduced last week by Parliament is set to force mobile networks to deploy fake mobile phone base stations, also known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, outside prisons to prevent, detect or investigate the use of mobile phones in prisons.

The new Prisons and Courts Bill has provisions to allow the Justice Secretary to order networks to deploy the fake phone masts, where currently IMSI catchers can only be deployed under the legal provisions in the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012.

Currently restrictions by the Act only allow IMSI catchers to be deployed within prison walls and only allow prison governors can deploy them.

Clause 21 of the new bill introduced last week, along with its schedule 4, will amend the P(IWT) Act to allow the Justice Secretary to authorise “interference with wireless telegraphy”.

An unfortunate byproduct of this will now mean that the ability to listen in on conversations of innocent citizens who happen to be in the area will be even easier, as the state joins forces with mobile phone companies to use their technical abilities.

Use of IMSI catchers is effectively unregulated at the moment, except where it has been made legal for the state and bodies authorised by the state under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.